Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When the Wind Blows

Well, last night we had a tornado here on the Turtle Flambeau Flowage, and it was a doozy -- at least for up here where tornadoes aren't often seen.  The experience was like something out of a movie.  Tom and I were listening to the NOAA radio and watching the sky, Tom at the South windows in the living room, and me at the kitchen windows facing North.  Suddenly the sky turned black and our 70+ foot tall old growth trees went from swaying back and forth to bent over at 90 degrees and they started snapping.  The sound was like bones breaking.  The power went out.  Then I heard the wind wail eerily and I shouted, "We've got to get into the basement NOW!"   I ran into Lara's room and grabbed her wheelchair.  At the same time I heard Tom shout.  There was a huge clump of basswood trees falling toward the house.  I unbuckled the seat belt on Lara's wheelchair and set her on the floor.  We dragged her down the basement stairs backward on her tush (Eddy held the flashlight and did a great job lighting our way) and when we all were in the basement stairwell there was a loud BOOM and the house shook.  Lara started shrieking.  Ed was excited but controllable.  I sat on the floor with Lara who began to sob and say she was afraid and very sad.  She put her arms around my neck like a wrestler putting on a head lock and wouldn't let go.  I could hardly breathe she clung to me so tightly.  I managed to get Eddy to come by us and I hugged him, too.  He was a lot calmer than Lara.  Even in our good poured concrete basement we could hear trees breaking.  After a while Tom went upstairs to check things out.  I checked out the phone and as we had a dial tone, I called Dad.  There was no answer, so Tom donned a rain poncho and walked over to Dad's to make sure he was ok.  One of the huge old spruce trees had fallen on the farmhouse in almost the same spot the basswoods had fallen on our house.  All but three of the great spruce trees in the arbor that Great Grandpa Mathias had planted so long ago are gone, and the ones that still stand are damaged.  Thankfully, Dad was ok, though he insisted on staying in the house.   It was now dark and there was nothing that could be done, so we all just went to bed.

After a bad night of little sleep, Tom and I were up at first light to check out the damage.  I had my trusty camera in hand to take pictures for the insurance adjustor.  How about a nice view of the house:

Or maybe the surrounding woods:

The number of shattered trees is phenomenal.  Tom and I literally had to saw our way to the end of the drive so the electric company could get in to our property.

One of the electrical wires was down on the ground, tangled in with fallen trees in the easement area.

There was a tree leaning on the remaining wire near the transformer pole.

Broken trees covered the propane tank and crushed most of the chicken run fence.  Miraculously, the chicken coop was untouched and when I went to check on my chickipoos, they were very happy in their newly cleaned coop.  (I cleaned it out yesterday and put down fresh wood shavings.)

The back yard view is considerably thinned out.

The garden boxes were flattened but I'm hopeful they will recover.  Less can be said for the condition of the field.  Here's what is left of my high tunnel:

And the chicken skid I built last year lost half of its roof.  I don't even know where the plywood went.

This is all that's left of my hops section:

The corn is flattened, but the potatoes and many of the squash plants are still there; not sure about the rest yet.

Trees were down along the creek buffer, and Shane and the snowmobile trail clean up crew are going to get a real work out this year.

I'm thankful we are all in one piece.  It sure could have been worse.  One of the workers from Price Electric told us that we were lucky -- the area down on Highway 182 where the tornado really hit is supposedly flattened. 

As for the garden, well, I'm still hopeful I'll have enough produce at some point to make it to the farmers market.

And the next time Lara tells me she hears a hoot owl at her window we won't wait before going to the basement!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No Rain Today

No rain today, but because there were no clouds I decided to stick close to the house and get some low level chores done.  The work was mostly shaded and the mosquitoes weren't bad because there was a pretty nice breeze all day.  I planted the Antonovka apple tree out in the back yard next to the blackberries and hauled manure from the pile next to the chicken coop all over the place.  I replanted the big plastic pot next to the garage door entrance where my now defunct bay laurel tree was with the few herb plants the chickens didn't eat from last year's disastrous herb garden where the wild roses, mint, and artesmia now grow.  (The chickens leave those things alone.)  I gave everything a good drink of water and before I knew it, my watch read 4:00 p.m.  It was a quick six hours!  Tomorrow is supposed to have more clouds, but we also have Special Olympics tomorrow afternoon, so there isn't much I can do outside tomorrow.  Still, I'm feeling pretty good at all the work that is getting done.  Catching up on the little chores really makes a big difference.

Tom and Ed went and helped Dad split some more wood out on the hay road.  They got a huge load split and loaded onto Dad's trailer with more yet to do.  I thought the bugs would be bad in the woods, but Tom said the wind blew straight down the hay road and kept the bugs off them.  Some of that maple was so big they had to roll the pieces onto the splitter with a make shift ramp.  I know that was a job!

Still have a few rows out in the field to weed and I hope to get to that this weekend. 

Be well!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dodging the Rain

It seems like we do our outside work now around the times it rains.  We've hilled and hoed Tom's potatoes and corn, and we've been working in the field.  We finished cutting the grass inside the field fence, and today Tom started cutting the grass outside the fence along the creek side while I slugged away in the vegetable section rows weeding and thinning.  I actually finished thinning all the carrots and nearly all the herb rows.  The herbs are mostly perennials and small for this first year, but what did grow looks great!  I tried not to look at the green beans, beets, tomatoes and lettuce rows that have been devastated by the deer.  The pumpkin section looks a bit frail from all the standing water, and I don't know if the sunflowers edging that section will recover, but there is plenty of green and the pumpkin vines look like they are ready to run.  Looks like raised beds for that area will be standard issue from now on.  The hops look great, but they are planted in hills and water drains more readily away from them.  We gave Eddy the little push grass mower and he did a good job of cutting the grass around the garden sections.

I took a moment to check out the trees in the fruit orchard.  One Wealthy apple and my favorite apple tree, the Fameuse, will need to be replanted -- both completely dead above their grafts. One of the Golden Spice pears is dead, too.  The two remaining grafted plums are alive, but growing from below the grafts.  I'm considering letting them grow as is since wild plums are tasty, too, albeit smaller than grafted plums.  Three of the four Bali sour cherry trees are completely dead.  That's make nine trees (if I decide to replant the plums) that need replacing.  About 10 hazelnut trees from the original 25 are still alive and looking healthy; that's a good enough number for me.  The Bohemian horseradish is growing well though that row needs some major renovating, and there are a couple of McDonald rhubarb plants  that insist on growing in the row that I originally planted  six years ago.  The gooseberries are hanging on in their row, and the overgrown asparagus bed is decidedly ferny.  I think I will till that perennial section really well and make some new beds.  In them I will transplant the grape vines that are currently on the South side of the house -- Tom keeps running over a couple of them with the lawn mower and it's driving me crazy.  I think I will transplant the hazelnut trees into another row -- I don't like them so close to the fence where they currently are.  That still leaves plenty of room for a row of cultivated elderberry shrubs and maybe some other shrubs.

Talked to Tom about measuring off the big garden section where the corn and potatos currently are into a one acre section and  moving the hops there next year.  Might as well plant them properly in a well defined area with ease of maintenance and the commercial growing plan in mind.  We'll leave the current hops section and the current mixed veggie section along with the high tunnel for the main market garden areas.  I am trying to get into the woods to cut up all the tree tops we have down from making firewood for Dad to use as fence posts for fences around the garden sections.  I would sure like to get that done while the ground is soft from the rain, but I'll get to it somewhere down the line.   The idea looks very nice in my imagination . . . .

I'm so happy that the herbs are growing despite the weeds.  I really did not expect them to do as well as they are.  I think the only herbs I didn't see growing were lemon balm and skullcap.  Even the foxgloves are growing well.  I'm looking forward to weeding the remaining rows to see how everything is growing through the weeds. 

Alot of the winter squash plants look kind of funny.  They are very small -- almost no green and not even big enough to run -- but are getting lots of flowers already.  The cucumbers are the same way.  Don't know if it's because of all the rain or something else.  I hope to post some pictures for you soon.

On another front, we have another fox.  This one is real raggedy looking.  He got one hen yesterday.  The chickens have taken to staying close to the coop.  They have also stopped laying well.  My guess is that they are getting ready to molt.  A couple of them have gone broody on me, too, and are sitting together on top of a clutch of eggs.  They shriek and peck if you go too close to them.  My egg count is down to less than 10 a day now.  That's ok.  I plan to butcher most of these hens before winter and add new chickens next year.  I know the trend is for getting the darkest brown eggs you can get, but I don't like the really dark eggs because I can't see through the shell when I candle them.  I will look for a hen that lays a lighter brown shell that is easy to candle.

The sun shines right before it dips below the trees and it is shining now through a hole in the advancing rain clouds.  Sure we will get more rain tonight.  Well, stay dry and I'll talk to you soon.  Be careful!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just Call Me Frustrated

Well, we finally have a new computer.  I went to C-Net and checked out their reviews and top computer picks, talked to Tom about differences among various makers, and we decided on the Gateway 4831-05 desk top.  It runs on Windows 7 x64, and I bought a 20" LCD monitor.  After letting my daughter set it up, I suffered death by a thousand cuts until I broke down two days later and reinstalled Windows.  Once I did that, at least the computer stopped giving me any more error messages at every move I made.  The bad news is that almost all of my programs either won't run at all or have to be upgraded.  The Windows Easy Transfer wasn't, and didn't, and my HP Laserjet 1000 -- the absolute best printer I've ever owned -- won't run at all on Windows 7 x64 because HP hasn't come out with a driver upgrade for it, so I'm stuck using a Canon i860 my daughter gave us that won't feed paper properly and eats ink.  I HATE ink jet printers.  If HP doesn't come up with a driver upgrade for the Laser Jet 1000, I will NEVER buy another HP product so long as I live.  It is a slow process reinstalling and upgrading all of my most used programs, and you can just call me Frustrated!  

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Mowing Hay

Looks like we might have a few good days to cut the grass down so yesterday and today I was out in the field mowing as fast as I could.  I put that 722 BCS with the brush mower attachment in 2nd gear, opened up the throttle, and let her go.  I mowed the perennial section and the fruit tree orchard, the oats I had for greem manure inside the high tunnel, and this afternoon I finished up the drive lane where the ramp to the road is and started the pasture section inside the fence near the chicken skid.  It was hot work and the deer flies are starting to be pesky.  I sure was wishing for a breeze.  Tom and Ed worked in the woods off the hay road cutting up a tree that my brother-in-law felled for firewood for Dad, and among the three of us, we managed to drink up three big jugs of water.  It felt good getting so much done.  I'm glad no one got sick from the heat.   

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Prayer on Independence Day

For all America's Blessings, we thank Almighty God.
We pray we BE these Virtues:
that we persevere and succeed in our chosen duties.
In time of tribulation
 we seek wise Counsel
 and give thanks for welcome Guidance. 
on America,
on Earth, and
on all things.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Summer's Here

The July moon this morning bodes more rain on the way  (when the moon looks like an overturned bowl) --

The cool and wet weather has vanished and it's been hot and humid.  It was 85F today and very windy -- too hot to work in the field for me so I washed the sheets and hung them outside on the clothesline instead.

We have been able to get a lot of work done in the last few dry days we've had.  Most of the grass has been cut around the field sections, and most of the garden has been mulched.  The potatoes and corn in all the gardens have been hilled and hoed, and we've been able to keep up with the weeds.  Tom's potatoes look pretty good.

The bad news is that because of the prolonged cool and wet weather, most of the winter squashes are lost, and a lot of what's been planted looks poor.  Maybe now that we have some heat, the garden will start to perk up.  And maybe the deer and sandhill cranes will find something other than my seedlings to eat!

I harvested all the garlic, potato onions and shallots from the garden boxes in back of the house.  It was a bit early, but with all the rain the tops fell over and I was afraid it would all rot.  I was glad I harvested them.  The bulbs are on the small side, but otherwise they look good.  I let them cure in the sun for two days and then hung everything up in the garage rafters to cure for a couple of weeks.  I amended the garden boxes with some of the mink manure we got from Dale and replanted the boxes for a fall garden.  Tom couldn't believe all that I planted in the boxes, but I told him each box was 100 sq./ft. and you can plant an awful lot in them.  Here's the diagram:

I also found another roll of chicken wire that was out in the high tunnel, and I took that back to the house to use to finish the fence around the berry knoll and the fruit trees near the house.

Last night something funny happened.  I went to lock up the chickens for the night and was kind of surprised that they had gone into the coop early.  Usually they wait till just about dark to go inside.  Anyway, just as I closed the coop door I felt something jump on me.  I looked over my shoulder and there wagging their tails and looking up at me with big puppy eyes were two little bear hound pups that could only have come from my neighbor's house.  They were irrestible; I had to laugh.  "Well,"  I said, "Puppies can't play with chickens.  Let's go home."  So I walked them around the coop run and through the woods over to my neighbor's house.  "Come on, Puppies," I kept saying, and they followed me with no problem.  They were cute little pups.  We had a bear come through the yard again the other night and it knocked down the fence at the end of the coop run and I haven't had a chance to fix the downed posts yet so I expect that's how they got inside.  Carrie called Larry to get the pups and she and I chatted a while.  Bear dog training season started today and they were planning on taking the pups out early.  I'll bet those pooches are sleeping sound tonight!

Tomorrow we're having a bar-be-que for the 4th of July holiday.  I made homemade hamburger buns -- the recipe came from a recent issue of Mother Earth News magazine.  They smell SO good I can't wait to try them.  My sister, Mary, and her crew are coming as well as my Dad.  Even though rain is forecast, it should be a fun day!